School districts give a look at what schools will look like when in-person instruction resumes

El Paso News

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM)–With the first day of school just around the corner, local school districts are preparing for the possibility of students returning to school for face-to-face instruction.

The first day of school for most local districts is on Monday, August 17. As of now, at least the first four weeks of instruction will be online only.

Socorro, Canutillo, El Paso and Ysleta Independent School Districts have all requested an extension waiver from the Texas Education Agency that would extend remote learning another four weeks until October 9.

SISD gave KTSM a tour of Pebble Hills High School to show an example of the modifications made to follow CDC and TEA guidelines for reopening schools.

“It’s been a challenge in the sense in that its something different that you don’t necessarily know what you’re getting into,” Pebble Hills HS Principal Ignacio Estorga said.

PPE will be provided to students as well as faculty and staff. Other items include sanitation wipes, sprays and disinfectants for teacher’s classrooms.

“Students will be provided masks even if they don’t have one, teachers will have masks, so we’re following guidelines of CDC, TEA and SISD,” Estorga said.

Desks in classrooms must be kept six feet apart from each other, including the teacher’s desk.

“That way students are not sitting near each other but could be sitting across from each other,” Carmen Crosse, the Assistant Superintendent in charge of high schools for SISD said.

In the school cafeteria, tables are blocked off and lunch periods will be broken down to two or three different lunch periods in the day to limit the number of students eating at the same time.

Hallways have also been redirected to limit access with one-way traffic or roundabouts.

“Hallways have all been assigned areas of walkways whether its one-way or roundabouts depending on the area they are walking through,” Crosse said, “so that we don’t have many students and staff coming and going and having that opportunity for connection.”

Wellness checks will be done at the start of the day in first period by teachers, including temperature checks to those who enter campus. Crosse said this may delay the start of high schools to 9 a.m. and students will have to eat breakfast in their first period class.

“It’s going to be a big change for us as a teacher,” Pebble Hills HS art teacher Rosa Villarreal said.

With students having the option for full-time online instruction, or a hybrid of online and in-person, teachers need to prepare for both.

“Honestly it’s been a little overwhelming because we’ll have 12 kids at one time and then I’m guessing other kids online,” Villarreal said.

Vivian Blanco is a first-time teacher for SISD. She said this wasn’t what she expected for her first year of teaching.

“It wasn’t what I expected, you know you expect going into your classroom and being excited,” Blanco said.

Blanco said as a teacher, the most challenging thing has been learning all the applications and tools necessary for online teaching.

“Having to learn how it works, so that way when we do teach it to the students its not as hard,” Blanco said.

SISD requested an extension of remote learning to October but staff said with the right changes, they are ready to welcome students back.

“It’s kind of like a little bubble and we respect each others area to make sure that everyone is safe,” Villarreal said.

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